May 24: 'Protect us'

Is this what we have worked for over the last 59 years?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
'Protect us' Sir, - Your editorial notes: "The primary prerequisite is that Israel perform a mental switch away from expecting others to do the job for us" ("No more arms to Gaza," May 21). This applies beyond Israel considering giving arms to Fatah in order to prevent Hamas from gaining control in Gaza. Ehud Olmert has implied that the US will protect us from Iran going nuclear. This week Tzipi Livni did not rule out a multinational force along the Philadelphi corridor. So many Israeli teenagers return from their high school trip to Poland grateful and proud that we Jews now have a state of our own to protect ourselves. Israel is, thankfully, part of an international community, and needs to consider this overall picture. And yet our current leaders seem so focused on convincing others to protect us. Is this what we have worked for over the last 59 years? CAROLYN TAL Haifa Status quo ain't so bad Sir, - Herb Keinon presents two scenarios facing Israel to preclude the collapse of the PA: "Drop the three conditions established when Hamas came into power, under the logic that some address is better than none at all, or side with Fatah in its battle with Hamas." When choices are between bad and much worse, it would seem prudent and politically advisable to choose neither. The mantra that the status quo - doing nothing - is untenable is a fallacy. The madness of the first option is clear. As to the second choice of siding "with Fatah in its battle with Hamas," the 14 years since Oslo should surely have convinced the Israeli government that Fatah leaders are corrupt, ineffectual and harbor basically the same intentions against Israelis even when their overt declarations sound "moderate." The very realistic prospect of the PA's collapse will not make Israel's position vis-a-vis the Palestinians any more deleterious than it is at present - because Hamas agreed to the "unity" structure with Fatah only to open the spigots of financial aid the PA had been receiving from international donors, while still vociferously rejecting the international community's preconditions that the Palestinians eschew violence, recognize Israel, and honor past agreements ("What a PA collapse would mean for Israel," May 18). FAY DICKER Lakewood, New Jersey Sultan Yakoub Three Sir, - Barry Rubin's "America talks, Syria imprisons" (May 14) was well written and well-intentioned, but it gave Syria yet one more victory - that of omission. As legal guardian in the US for Zachary Baumel and the plaintiff in the US federal legal case against the government of Syria, I, and the Baumel family, were shocked at the omission of the Sultan Yakoub Three (Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz) from the Syrians' short list of atrocities. This serves the purpose of the current and past Syrian despots by sending the clear message that with time, all is forgiven. It would be wise to not let the Syrians, guilty of a long list of international crimes, off the hook so easily. We certainly are not. Our recent successful lawsuit against the Syrians, which resulted in a default judgment against them, will shortly lead to a freezing and hopeful liquidation of all US-based Syrian assets. We have told Bashar Assad that the day will come when he leaves power and lives, like others, as a deposed despot. The Baumels and I will then take those same assets and prosecute Assad wherever he lives. Syrians who oppose Assad and have knowledge of the fate of the Sultan Yakoub Three will then have a voice in helping to truly punish the criminals in Damascus and abroad. STUART H. DITCHEK New York The writer is founder of the Committee for the Release of Zachary Baumel. Politics of rescue Sir, - Do you really wish to have had an article about the defense of Alger Hiss ("Eulogy for Alger, atonement for a failure," April 15) but not in any way to defend Stephen S. Wise? Jonathan Tobin's "Who were the real 'accomplices'?" (April 15) did not tell a balanced story of Wise vis-a-vis the Holocaust. My evidence is first-hand. I knew the man, discussed these issues with him, and his problems were dinner-table conversation during my youth. Before the US's entrance into the war after Pearl Harbor, Wise spoke often and accurately about the menace of Nazism. He was told to shut up, but didn't. Wise was not concerned about suffering anti-Semitism himself; nor was concern that more anti-Semitism would result the main reason he refused to be publicly critical of Roosevelt. What stopped him completely was his desire to support Roosevelt's pursuit of Allied victory, with unconditional Nazi German surrender. Wise traveled extensively to help Jews escape Nazism, and was successful in some cases. He had his teeth knocked out by Nazi thug on a Swiss street because of his efforts. I believe the efforts of Pope Pius XII were parallel. Had he been more outspoken he would have endangered the lives of many Catholics and also of the many Jews, he, the Vatican and the Church did manage to save (somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000). He should be applauded for the risks he took, not condemned for those he did not take. An analogy: I am 75 years old. I once was a good swimmer, but I have not swum for about 12 years. Suppose I visited a Mediterranean beach when waves were high, and saw a boat capsize. A few were accommodated by inflated rubber devices, some could swim, but some were drowning. Suppose I plunged into the waves, manage to grab one person and, with all my remaining energy, brought that person safely to shore. Would those who swam to shore on their own have a right to criticize me for rescuing only one individual and not more? DAVID LLOYD KLEPPER Jerusalem Jonathan Tobin responds: I agree; Alger Hiss was as guilty as sin. As for Wise, his life demonstrates the old saying that you need to be careful what you do, because you never know when you're going to do the one thing you're always going to be remembered for. Yet I have no patience for these apologetics. Peter Bergson was a crank and not generally someone to whom one would give a responsible position, as his subsequent life proved. But in that one moment in history he was completely in the right, and didn't have the smarts or the good sense to see which way the wind was blowing and give in. Wise was brilliant and responsible, and he did much good for the Jewish people and was a dedicated Zionist. But he let his political instincts rule him at a moment when Bergson's moral compass was unalterable. Who's blind here? Sir, - I would like to think that Jimmy Carter, in his remaining years, might find that appropriate niche in life which so eluded him in his single elected term as US president. But too many of his published words these days militate against it. Take, for instance, his latest assertions while in London on Saturday. Speaking to British radio, Carter chastised British leader Tony Blair for his government's "blind" support of America in Iraq, adding that he finds the prime minister's attitude toward the US president "abominable. Loyal, blind - apparently subservient." This about the foreign leader who's done the most to back the US and its soldiers against Islamist extremists hoping to end our 200-year-old experiment in democracy. It is an accepted maxim that past presidents should refrain from criticism of successors. Carter too often demonstrates its wisdom - if only he too would realize it ("Carter slams British PM as 'blind, abominable' Bush supporter," May 20). R. GOODDEN Atlanta